Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Enemy Is Matching Velocity

Dear Megan,

Repeating is not the same thing as reporting. Anecdotes about what your friends, colleagues, and people you've interviewed said is not the same thing as data and analysis.

The unemployment rate hit 8.1% in February, according to a Labor Department report out this morning. The numbers were not a surprise, and every sector lost jobs, though constuction has been hit the hardest. The only moderately surprising news is that average hourly earnings continue to rise, presumably reflecting a concentration of job losses among less skilled workers.

Why are you presuming instead of checking the numbers? Asking people? Is she a journalist or is she like Sigourney Weaver's character in Galaxy Quest, whose job it is to repeat whatever the computer says?

The New York Times story reports:

Some economists expect that the nation's businesses could cut another two million jobs and that unemployment could reach 9 to 10 percent by the time a recovery begins.

Some economists? I haven't talked to a single one who estimates unemployment peaking below 9%.

It would be helpful if you gave us names, so we could know who is giving you the information. For all we know it could be your cousin who used to work for the Unemployment Office.

Unemployment is a lagging indicator--it will keep falling after output has bottomed out. And output is not yet ready to bottom out, for all of our public officials slapping happy face stickers over all their official reports.

Numbers? Please? And names? Who is slapping on happy face stickers? Which reports?

The other day I was talking to another economics journalist at a lunch,...

Another anonymous anecdote.

...and in re: Ben Bernanke's stated public opinion, asked whether he'd met anyone who actually believed that growth would recover in the second half of the year.

"No," quoth he, then added "and neither does Bernanke."

What could that possibly mean? Bernanke doesn't believe things are getting better, but doesn't say so--why could that possibly be so? Can anyone figure out this conundrum? I know--let's ask Megan. She has an MBA from the University of Chicago and many contacts in the financial industries. She is paid by the Atlantic to explain the intricacies of the financial markets to people just like us. Well, Megan?

By which he claimed no special knowledge, but rather pointed out the obvious: the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is not going to start screaming "fire!" in a market that is already primed to stampede.

Oh. Well, it was very nice of you to share that with us.


M. Bouffant said...

another economics journalist


Anonymous said...

I was talking to a friend about why I detest Megan McArdle and I had to explain it wasn't necessarily her ideology (as repellent as I may find it at times) but how she routinely and thoroughly demonstrates not only a total lack of professionalism but an apathy toward the standards of the field she thinks or pretends to think she has mastered.

Really, the small town newspaper I worked for did a better job of observing journalistic standards than she does. It's like she doesn't care at all about making a halfway convincing argument, just showing off how "in the loop" she is.

Susan of Texas said...

MB--that always tickles me too.

Chad, I know what you mean. It's not (just) that she's wrong or callous or smug or snobbish--it's that she doesn't even try to be good at her job. And we can tell from the comments that her audience mostly doesn't care--all they want is someone who will flatter them, insult their enemies, and cater to their selfishness and greed. The typical middle-class conservative looks down on the Rush listener, as the recent dust-up shows, and so must go to the Atlantic or the Wall Street Journal or CNBC to hear the same thing in more educated phrases.